I love Costa Rica! This was my second trip out there this year. Last January, my plane was overbooked so twice I ended up staying the night in a hotel paid for by the Airline and a bunch of travel vouchers. This January I went for 17 days with Dan and I checked out other places I didn’t get to go to last time. Sadly my camera was stolen so I am going to try and find other pics in the ‘net to illustrate this post.
I feel that Costa Rica is probably one of the easiest places to travel as a vegan, certainly a lot nicer than the sausage fest that is Eastern Europe. Even as a raw vegan it would be fairly easy since you can always get fruit plates, smoothies, and salads. The best part about Costa Rican food in my opinion is breakfast, specifically the food of my dreams: Gallo Pinto.I have been working of the recipe for awhile and I think I have almost perfected it, will try and post soon. Basically you cook & season the rice and the beans separately then you stir fry them together with more peppers, onions, and celery. In Costa Rica they come with a side on fried plantains (if you are lucky) or eggs or meat. I really want to make some tofu scramble to go with my gallo pinto this weekend because I think it would be really good.
I make Gallo Pinto regularly at home but I have learned during this recent trip to Costa that the missing link is Lizano Salsa which is the key to authentic Costa Rican Gallo Pinto.Tico’s love their gallo pinto as much as I do so you can get it at every single restaurant, even Burger King so it is nice to know that you are always going to find a vegan option. Fruit plates can usually be ordered at any time and are often breakfast if you are staying at a place that includes breakfast.
Another great fruit option is a batido en agua. These shakes are everywhere and can be with milk or water (sometimes even soy milk). Usually they list about 14 different kinds of fruit but then only have a couple available. Pineapple and cantaloupe are my favorite.Mixed drinks with tropical fruits are so yummy too. Horchata, which is a rice milk drink was often available as well. The best part is that they are really cheap and fresh. Usually they are around a dollar. The greatest drink in all of Costa Rica, however, is agua de pipa. If you are lucky while you are lounging on the beach a guy with a machete will wander by and open one up for you.
The common lunch in Costa Rica is called a Casado, which actually means husband. I think it stems from what the wife would pack up for her husband when he went off to work. It always involves rice and beans, often a plantain, and instead of meat you can say Casado Vegetariano and you never know what you will get, usually rice and beans and a salad and either a pasta or vegetable dish.
I had so many good meals. We stayed in Santa Elena first by Monteverde in a wonderful place called Cabinas Vista El Golfo which I highly recommend. They had a full kitchen to use and I was shocked to find tahini at the grocery store so I was able to make hummus! Note that lemons in Costa Rica look exactly like limes. We had to ask. Next time I travel I am going to try to remember to bring some tahini. It keeps well and hummus is so great to have along, especially with some olives on bus rides or hikes. In Monteverde we hiked on hanging suspension bridges in the cloud forest. and we took a boat ride on Lake Arenal. It was so beautiful. I rode a horse named Pinto to the top of a mountain where you could see the entire Pacific coast. He was the most adorable horse. We got to see sugar cane growing and learned how the made it into liquor. They also grew coffee, beans, avocado, bananas, and all sorts of other stuff, you would never need to shop if you lived in the tropics.
After Monteverde we took the bus and then the ferry to Montezuma on the Nicoya peninsula which is a very veg friendly town. The stores had soy milk powder and some other vegan offerings and the restaurants were just wonderful. I had a fantastic sweet potato and spinach curry at a place called “the bakery cafe” that had a full vegetarian menu.
The food at this place was so great! They had the menu divided into sections by country and I wanted to try it all. The cool part is that they put out food and tropical birds and monkeys come by while you are eating. One day we saw a whole family of monkeys including a mama with a baby on her back!
There was also a really cool juice place called Organico that was all organic and had mostly vegan food.they even had vegan literature on their menu! It was a really laid back place but do to the organicness it was rather expensive so I only went once. Maybe the greatest part was the fact that they have an air conditioned chill room where you can hang out on pillows and read magazines and books. It was really nice. I wish I would have noticed it my first day there when I was feeling sickly.
We stayed at a really nice and cheap place on the beach called Hotel Lucy that also had a kitchen. (This is one of my two pictures, you can see hotel lucy on the right)
We also went snorkeling at the Isle of Tortuga, it was so beautiful! I saw so many tropical fish and the water was gorgeous and a psychotic blue. Here we are on the boat!.
After over a week in Montezuma we went to Mal Pais for a couple days and stayed at the Mal Pais Surf School and Resort. It was fabulous because they had a pool and a restaurant with a ping pong table. I beat Dan 7 times in a row at ping pong. We went to one little restaurant there that was on the beach and it just had the most gorgeous view. We sat eating gallo pinto and fried plantains and discussed the fact that Austin really needs a Costa Rican restaurant. If I perfect my gallo pinto recipe, who knows maybe I will open it :)